As we grow from a young age, we’re constantly told that college is a MUST. The force to attend college comes from all sources; parents, mentors, teachers, relatives, television, social media, and even the looming facts that no one without a college degree gets a high paying and mentally stimulating job. Ultimately, no degree equals no future. For as long as I can remember I was told I going to go to college, I was even going to become an Astronaut, “but not without your degree,” my grandfather would remind me. Getting accepted into University of Maryland-College Park was a dream come true. I’ll never forget opening my email, seeing the words (or word), “Congratulations,” and screaming my head off for about 20 minutes.
As a senior Studio Art Major nearing graduation in May, the fear is calling my name. No, I’m not afraid of the “real world,” I’m afraid of my debt. For my first two years of attendance, I was totally 100% covered. But suddenly and without notice that all ended and I was faced with either paying $11,388.46 or Academic Dismissal. Luckily I had filed my FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and that opened the loan door for me and my family, which is something I always feared. Coming from a single parent home our financials have always been a bit shaky and adding a college student to the mix doesn’t add any relief. Through the eyes of my University, my mother’s income placed us above the government assistance line but in reality we were below it. After 5 years at UMD, I’ve accumulated over $43,766 in loans, and that’s not tacking on impending interest. For most US Students this isn’t an abnormal situation, but the problem is getting worse.
The current amount of US College Debt? A whopping $1.2 Trillion.
This could cover the tuition of 27,418,544 students with financial obligations similar to mine.
But why is this important? Let’s say you’re a student that has encountered more than a few bumpy roads in your college career, which in turn has given you an less than great GPA, you know what I mean, something lower than a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). Now we know that GPA doesn’t accurately or fully define the student, but to a college official that’s the bread and butter. So how do we get money?
Unfortunately our chances and choices when applying for scholarships drop without the perfect GPA. So again I ask where do we get money? Let’s also consider your financial situation, you fall below the assistance line but your family is in a good enough financial position to help you. This opens the doors to loans, but unfortunately if you lack the credit score to apply for loans, you’ll need a co-signer. But if your family has other financial burdens and no co-signer is available, that means no co-signer equals no money. Tack the racial fact that more than 40% of Black students accrued student debt compared to only 28% of White students. Now we have a recipe for disaster considering that a future with large amounts of debt isn’t much of future.
I am proposing an action plan. Let’s change the framework of chance to students in need. I propose the construction of a $5,000 scholarship for 5 minority students ($1,000 for each student) with GPAs in the less desirable range (2.2-2.7). This will be presented to the artistically inclined who can grant us a view of their talents. Of course this will be difficult to narrow down, but we’ll do so in a way that helps all. By creating a artistic showcase we’ll auction (with the creators’ consent of course) off pieces with percentages going towards the creators and the scholarship fund. With $1,000 a student can afford to purchase books, pay tuition, study abroad, feed themselves, invest in their future, and so much more. I find that it’s depressingly unfair that students who find themselves trapped and wrapped up in educational financial woes have limited resources for assistance. Why punish us any further?
We need you. The more people involved in working against the big financial bully the more of an impact we make in the world. As spoken by Charles Dickens, “Change begets change [and] nothing propagates so fast.” What can you do to promote change? Spread awareness of the rising US College Debt, the impact on the futures of bright individuals, and DONATE to the The Cost of Education!